FIRST ready to inspire the next generation of science and engineering professionals

FIRST ready to inspire the next generation of science and engineering professionals

Apr 3, 2001

The FIRST National Robotics Competition is April 5-7 at Disney World's Epcot Center.

The FIRST National Robotics Competition is April 5-7 at Disney World's Epcot Center. Kettering is again hosting the Auto City Bandits (Team 70), a group of high school students from Genesee Area Skill Center (GASC) and Powers High School. Kettering provides funding and support. The team is coached by GASC's John Root, who is assisted by other volunteers.

FIRST For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology is an alliance of business, education, government and volunteers who come together to inspire tomorrow's engineers.

As Bob Nichols, vice president for enrollment management at Kettering, likes to say, the university has some very selfish reasons for inspiring tomorrow's professionals. "What a great way to have the country's top science talent identified for us through this national contest," he said. "We actively recruit from this pool of very talented students and do our fair share to inspire the next generation of engineers, technicians and researchers."

See for yourself: NASA is hosting a video story for you to download. Visit the FIRST web site at: and click on NASA 2001View

Nichols said FIRST is an effective feeder system for corporations and businesses, too. "It helps all of us find our future co-op students," he explained. "The competition gets students excited about science and technology."

The celebration at Epcot Center also positions Kettering on the national stage among corporate partners that include NASA, General Motors, Honeywell, Johnson & Johnson, Xerox, Delphi, Verizon and the National Science Foundation. Kettering will award six $20,000 four-year scholarships to some of the country's most talented science and technology students during formal ceremonies Saturday, April 7, in front of FIRST participants and volunteers.

Kettering is also helping to sponsor an appearance by WJR Radio Broadcaster Paul W. Smith at FIRST on Saturday morning, April 7, from 8 to 10 a.m. Nichols will be interviewed on WJR at 8:20 a.m.

The GAME 2001 is composed of two phases: Qualification Matches and Elimination Matches. In each, four teams work together as an alliance and try to achieve as high a score as possible. All teams in an alliance share the alliance score. However, during the qualification matches some teams may earn additional bonus points that apply only to their teams.

During the qualification matches, randomly assigned teams are partnered to form alliances just prior to the start of each match. Alliances last only for the duration of a match. Each team is assigned to one of four divisions and participates only with other teams in the same division. All teams are ranked after playing an equal number of qualification matches. Following the conclusion of the qualification matches, the top ranked teams form alliances and go on to compete in the elimination matches.

Alliances formed for the elimination matches stay together for the remainder of the event. Each alliance is composed of five teams. The fifth team serves as an alternate and can be used if a robot in the alliance is damaged or for reasons of scoring strategy.

During a match, the alliance scores points by

  • placing balls into goals,
  • positioning the robots in the End Zone at the end of the match,
  • moving the goals onto a semi-stable bridge which must be balanced at the end of the match,
  • ending the match prior to the two-minute time limit and
  • carrying a robot across the field using a stretcher if the stretcher is in the End Zone at the end of the match.
Each alliance competes using four team-built robots, 12 students and eight mentors. There are 40 small balls, approximately 13 inches in diameter. There are also four balls approximately 30 inches in diameter. Balls are inflated to size, not pressure. There are two goals each seven feet high with caster wheels around the base that may be moved around the playing field. One goal starts near the Start Zone, the other starts near the End Zone. Dividing the field in half is an 18-inch high railing with a central bridge. Robots may pass over the bridge or rails to access the opposite end of the field. The bridge is centrally supported on a beam approximately six inches wide, such that it may tilt toward either end of remain level.

The robots must compete within the bounds of the playing field, while the students are located at stations just outside the playing field. Only students and robots may score points with the balls. In each qualification match, the teams in the alliance receive scores that are added to their running total for the event. At the conclusion of the qualification matches, each team drops it lowest match score and the teams are then ranked according to total points.

At the start of each match, the alliance station will contain 20 small balls and four large balls located at the far end of the playing field. All balls may be used to score points. Teams may opt to use a stretcher on which a robot may be conveyed around the field. If the stretcher is used, it must start in the same position as the robot on the stretcher would normally start.

Founded in 1989, FIRST is a nationwide high-tech sporting event that pits robots designed and built by teams of students, teachers and corporate engineers in head-to-head competitions. Teams receive an identical kit that includes a microprocessor, radio-frequency transmitters and receivers, electrical components, motors, batteries and other hardware. Immediately following an annual opening ceremony each January, high school students gather with their corporate or university sponsors to begin the six-week process of designing, building and testing their robot in preparation for the regional and national competitions. Historically, the retention rate for teams participating year-to-year is almost 90 percent.

In Michigan, Eastern Michigan University hosts the regional competition. Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., hosts the national championships each year.

Kettering will host Kettering Kickoff 2001 Saturday, Sept. 22, in Kettering's Connie and Jim John Recreation Center. Kettering Kickoff is an opportunity for FIRST teams to practice their robot competition skills and enjoy the camaraderie that the national contest provides for high school students. For more information on the second annual Kettering Kickoff, call Sally Hicks at (810) 762-9760 or

For more information on the national FIRST effort, visit: or e-mail: David Brown, executive director, Bob Hammond, director, Robotics Competition, Anna Maenhout, director, FIRST LEGO League,

200 Bedford Street, Manchester, N.H. 03101; 800-871-8326; Fax: 603-666-3907